I just returned from Toronto and the 2013 Feminist Porn Awards and The Feminist Porn Conference, and I am still reeling. We arrived in Canada on Thursday and hit the ground running. Thursday night Good for Her presented Public. Provocative. Porn, a screening and panel that featured short films and clips by Gala Vanting, Saskia Quax, The Madame, Christian Slaughter, Julie Simone, Nica Noelle, and Clark Matthews. I’d heard a lot about Krutch starring Mia Gimp and directed by Clark Matthews, and I was really impressed by it. Mia Gimp is a star. The way the film is framed, how it flows, and the photography are all fantastic, especially for a first time director and performer! Mia and Clark are also articulate and funny, and, I wish the panel could have gone on longer.
The 8th Annual Feminist Porn Awards were on Friday night at a brand new venue this year, The Capitol Event Theater, which was really lovely. I was thrilled that Krutch won for Sexiest Short along with Biodildo, the Christian Slaughter film starring Jiz Lee that was screened the night before. I was truly surprised, and absolutely honored, to win the Smutty Schoolteacher Award for The Expert Guide to Pegging. Of all the sex ed movies I’ve made, this one is really close to my heart. Three of its stars (Dylan Ryan, Jiz Lee, and Wolf Hudson) were there to see me win (and were award winners themselves that night), and I dedicated my award to the kick ass women behind Bend Over Boyfriend.
Fittingly, Shar Rednour, femme diva, pioneering lesbian pornographer and the director of Bend Over Boyfriend presented The Trailblazer Award to Nan Kinney. Nan is a legend: she is the co-founder of On Our Backs and co-founder and current CEO of Fatale Media, the first company to produce lesbian porn by and for queer women. Nan’s speech was really moving, her partner Christi Cassidy (who runs Fatale with her) was in the audience beaming, and the crowd jumped to their feet in a well-deserved standing ovation.
This year, there were two awards for Hearththrob of the Year: Christian and Jiz Lee. I have directed Christian in a ton of films (Chemistry 2 and 3, Rough Sex, The Expert Guide to Oral Sex 2: Fellatio, The Expert Guide to Anal Pleasure for Men, The Expert Guide to Advanced Fellatio, The Expert Guide to Threesomes, The Expert Guide to Advanced Anal Sex, The Expert Guide to Pegging), and this was a big win for someone who is always overlooked by the mainstream adult industry. He was one of the first (and continues to be one of a handful of) male performers who has done gay, straight, and trans porn, who gets pegged on camera, and, as Nina Hartley once said, “lets his freak flag fly.” Congratulations Christian!
Jiz Lee is also just as deserving. I must say if there was any one person that everyone wanted to meet, who people gushed the most, and who is widely worshipped and adored by filmmakers and fans alike, it’s Jiz Lee. They rule for so many reasons, and I am so glad to know them. I’m also excited that Madison Young’s film 50 Shades of Dylan Ryan won for best kink movie and Gala Vanting, Ms. Naughty, and Wolf Hudson all received Honourable Mentions. Carlyle Jansen, owner of Good for Her and producer of the awards and JP, this year’s director, and their crew did an amazing job once again with the Awards Gala. It gets better every year!
The next morning, I was up bright and early to prep for The Feminist Porn Conference. The Feminist Porn Conference was inspired by The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure and my co-editors Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley, and Mireille Miller-Young. We first met and began a conversation about the intersections of feminism and pornography at the Console-ing Passions Conference in 2008 on a panel called “Sex Work in Industry and Academe.” It was the first time I had the opportunity to publicly talk to academics who were studying and teaching pornography, and it was an invaluable conversation. That conversation lead to more discussions, which lead to us co-editing The Feminist Porn Book. I created The Feminist Porn Conference to continue the dialogue that the book has sparked. Like the book, I wanted the conference to emphasize a hybrid approach, bringing together academics, cultural critics, performers, directors, producers, sex workers, activists, students and fans to explore the emergence of feminist porn as a genre, industry, and form of activism. Most importantly, the event was designed to put these folks into conversation by coupling academics with performers and producers whose work informs, inspires, or intersects with their porn scholarship.
We had some major accessibility issues at University College at UT, which I only found out about once I arrived in Toronto on Thursday. I want to thank Clark Matthews who assisted us in addressing some of these issues, Loree Erickson for bringing additional issues to our attention, and both of them for their patience and kindness during what was a frustrating, imperfect situation. I learned a great deal from the experience about what it means to be truly accessible, what kinds of questions to ask in the future, and make a public pledge to do better next year.
Interest in the conference exceeded my expectations, and we had 240 attendees. For you geeks out there, here’s what I know about who came to the conference: 31% of attendees were students, 22% identified themselves as producers, directors, or performers, 12% as professors and scholars, 12% were fans, members of the media and cultural critics made up 6%, 17% identified as “other,” and some of them specified: activist, writer, editor, therapist, sexologist, sex educator, sex worker, student and performer, researcher, programmer/curator, and sexual health clinic worker.
Although lots of folks partied late into the night, most managed to get to the conference in time for the first session at 10:15. Courtney Trouble organized the panel “If I Had A Hammer: Reclaiming Feminist Porn As A Tool of Political Activism Against Oppression,” and there was a big crowd for it. This notion of porn as a form of activism is really important and highlights the multiple ways feminists can intervene and challenge the status quo. Courtney is a shining example of putting politics into action. She is strong, driven, and steadfast in her refusal to shut about issues most important to her.
Constance Penley proved why she is such a kick ass feminist rock star when she opened the Keynote Lunch with some history and context for the conference and some amazing stories of teaching porn in the early nineties at UC Santa Barbara.
Mireille Miller-Young spoke eloquently about the importance of acknowledging access and privilege in spaces like the conference as well as the links between sex work, criminalization, politics, and pornography. I wrapped up by discussing why “feminist porn” is the right term for this genre, industry, field of study, philosophy, and movement and the parallels between feminist porn and the organic/fair trade movement. Then I put forth a call to action for folks to shift the cultural dialogue about feminist porn. I got a little fired up about it!
In Session 2, I was part of “Watch and Learn: Sex Education Discourses in Feminist Porn” which featured the scholarship of Kevin Heffernan of Southern Methodist University and Sarah Stevens of Ohio University whose work focuses on the sex ed films of Nina Hartley and I. I was both humbled and giddy with excitement to hear them talk about us! I cannot tell you how validating and revelatory it is to have academics talk about my filmmaking. Kevin analyzes it through the lens of early sex ed hygiene films and exploitation films, and Sarah does so from a theoretical perspective about pedagogies. Both of their presentations were fascinating, and I actually gained new insight into my own work through them. Notably, on the issue of authority (who has the authority to teach about sex education and especially about women’s sexuality), Sarah argued that I displace myself as the sole expert in The Expert Guide series when I include interviews of the performers who also serve as experts, teachers, and advisors. I strongly believe that professional porn performers do have much to teach us about sexuality from their unique point of view, so that point really resonated with me.
I was sad to miss a panel that was at the same time as mine: To Be Real: Authenticity in Queer and Feminist Porn with Jill Bakehorn, Dylan Ryan, Jiz Lee, and Shar Rednour. Authenticity in feminist porn is one of the most discussed concepts among directors, producers, performers, and audiences and Dylan, Jiz and Shar all have great things to say about it. Jill Bakehorn from UC Davis and UC Berkeley presented her academic work about authenticity as a social construction. To me, this panel epitomized what the conference was all about: having an in-depth discussion about crucial concepts where people had very different points of view and experiences. People really raved about the ensuing discussion. I heard wonderful feedback about all the sessions (here’s a great post by Girly Juice on the con). Several people were especially impacted by the panel Tina Horn organized and moderated “Being Out Now: How Performers Navigate Sexual Morality and Media Representation.” One attendee said it was “one of the most moving, important, life-changing experiences,” and another called it “an incredible array of experiences articulated by a group of smart, self-aware, thoughtful, fascinating people who happen to be sex workers.”
I attended “Feminist Porn XXX-Ed: Feminist Perspectives on Sexual Identity and Sexual Health in Educational and Feminist Porn” in Session 3 with Emily Nagoski of Smith College, Carol Queen, and Kali Williams. Emily’s presentation had me jotting down an entire page of notes, and she raised so many interesting questions about how feminist porn “queers” narratives about sex but doesn’t challenge them enough and often reinforces ideas about female sexuality that are not what she calls “evidence-based” or reflective of how women’s bodies, arousal processes, and orgasms actually work. She gave me so much food for thought. Carol Queen has the unique perspective of being involved with some of the earliest feminist porn and working at Good Vibrations (one of the first sex-positive shops that had a curated collection of porn for sale). Her thoughts about why people turn to porn for sex education, what role porn could play in sex ed, and how explicit sex education (or XXX-ed, as she calls it) fits into the mission of feminist porn. Kali Williams (founder of Kink Academy, Passionate U and Fearless Press) provided an interesting counterpoint when she argued that her explicit sex education is decidedly “not porn” because its intention is not to arouse but to teach. As I sat in the audience, I just really appreciated three powerful women discussing, disagreeing, and pushing the dialogue forward.
Each room was jam-packed for Session 4 which featured Constance Penley, Bobby Noble and Kevin Heffernan talking about Teaching Porn in Academe, Madison Young’s presentation on “The Politics of Kinky Porn and Feminism,” a panel about mandatory condoms and safer sex with Lisa Kadey, Courtney Trouble and Arabelle Raphael (moderated with skill by Lynn Comella, who is the best moderator in any industry anywhere), and the screening of Shine Louise Houston’s documentary Shiny Jewels.
At the closing reception, we all got to unwind a little and I had a chance to get my copy of The Feminist Porn Book autographed by contributors; I now have the signatures of Candida Royalle, Dylan Ryan, Sinnamon Love, Tobi Hill-Meyer, Ms. Naughty, Ariane Cruz, Mireille Miller-Young, Constance Penley, Kevin Heffernan, April Flores, Jiz Lee, and Lynn Comella. I missed Bobby Noble and Loree Erickson, the two Canadians dammit! Bobby Noble is the Principle Investigator of The Feminist Porn Archive and Research Project at York University. I had a few stolen moments with Sarah Stevens, Clark Matthews and Mia Gimp, Carlos Batts, Madison Young, Christi Cassidy and Nan Kinney.
I feel so much love, gratitude, respect, and awe for everyone who took part in this historic event. As I walked through the hallways or stopped outside classrooms, I’d catch bits and pieces of the most exciting, engaging conversations. People were clearly energized and buzzing from all the dialogue; they were making connections with each other, developing new ideas, re-thinking theories, challenging themselves and others. Each presenter paid their own way, traveling from California, Texas, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Massachusetts, Washington, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico, and as far away as The Netherlands and Australia. There was also a fantastic local contingent of Toronto folks like Nicholas Matte and several of his undergrads from UT and Bobby Noble, Toby Wiggins, and Loree Erickson from York University. The presenters contributed to the success of the event in innumerable ways. I had an extraordinary team of volunteers lead by my co-producer and partner Colten: Simon, Clyde, Frances, JP, Addi, bek, Freia, Torsten, Ilana, Tania A., Mike, Marie, Petra, and Rachel worked tirelessly all day with smiles on their faces. Rebecca Thorpe of The Marc Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies and Aaron from UT worked their asses off making sure technology worked and things ran smoothly at the facility.
There was a dizzying array of tweets about the conference (#FPcon), and I want to close with some of my absolute favorites. If you want to read all the tweets from the event, we have an #FPCon Storify (special thanks to Epiphora!).